Ugly Veg Make the News

Did You Know that the Look of Your Vegetables Was Governed by EU Law?

Last month I wrote about the not-so-perfect look of some of the veg box vegetables and how supermarkets seem to sell only perfect-looking fruits and veg to the detriment of more interesting varieties. So I was interested to see a story in today’s news about the review of an EU law that prevents the sale of anything but the finest-looking produce.

Our Fruit and Veg Has Been Restricted

For 20 years, this law has put restrictions on 36 types of fruit and veg, preventing the sale of any that didn’t conform to size and shape regulations. As a result of today’s vote by the EU member states, restrictions will soon be lifted on 26 of the 36 listed fruits and veg:

• Apricots • Artichokes • Asparagus • Aubergines • Avocados • Beans • Brussel sprouts • Carrots • Cauliflowers • Cherries • Courgettes • Cucumbers • Cultivated mushrooms • Garlic • Hazelnuts in the shell • Cabbage • Leeks • Melons • Onions • Peas • Plums • Celery • Spinach • Walnuts in the shell • Watermelons • Chicory.

The Future is Wonky

From July 2009, retailers will be able to sell less-than-perfect looking fruits and veg – if they want to. The decision will now be with the seller and it will be interesting to see what they choose to do as the indications are that these veg could cost as much as 40% less than their perfect cousins.

It seems like Sainsbury’s for one will be encouraged by this news. As reported in a Daily Echo news story on October 31st, Sainsbury’s had launched a Save Our Ugly Fruit and Veg campaign and started an online poll to encourage the EU to relax laws on selling produce. You can see the Sainsbury’s community chat stream here.

Sainsbury’s Save Our Ugly Fruit and Veg Campaign

The campaign was in response to warnings the supermarket received over ideas to sell odd-shaped produce for Halloween. They had planned to sell misshapen carrots as witches’ fingers, undersized cauliflowers as zombies’ brains and bendy cucumbers as ogres’ toenails.

Gordon Silvester, Manager of Sainsbury’s Lordshill Store said, “We’re not allowed to use up to 20% of what’s produced in this country [UK] and in the current credit crunch climate, we cannot continue to waste this much food before it even leaves the farms”.

Good News All Round

No longer will farmers have to throw away their ‘misshapen’ veg, so it’s good news for farmers, it’s good news for our wallets, and it’s great news for those of us who like to eat witches’ fingers, ogres’ toenails and zombies’ brains.

Here’s a video showing how some consumers have greeted the news.

News sources:
• Supermarket campaigns to save Hallowe’en veg range
• Brussels re-peels perfect veg rules
• EU to allow ‘wonky’ fruit and veg on supermarket shelves
• Supermarket’s ‘ugly’ veg campaign

UPDATE: As I continued to research this post I found an article in The Independent from June 2006 where it appears that Waitrose had already bitten the ‘ugly’ fruit and veg bullet. The plot thickens . . .

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